The Chimes

Price: $9.95
by Frank A. Wallace
four songs on texts by Charles Dickens for medium voice and 10-string guitar

Duration: 9:00; 12 pages

Instrumentation: Voice and guitar

World premiere: January 8, 2010, Concord NH, by Duo LiveOak

Recording: The Great Deep by Duo LiveOak on Gyre, 1/11/11

Preview: a sample PDF of The Chimes

I was looking for something else to write for my new 10-string guitar by Stephen Connor. My wife, Nancy Knowles, found an old copy of “Christmas Stories” by Dickens sitting on a shelf at my in-laws’ house and suggested we extract quotes from “The Chimes” to write some songs. It was right after Christmas 2008. I frequently have a creative rush at the end of the year – free time and a beautiful place to hole up for a couple of weeks. I set right to work, and met my goal of finishing the piece on the afternoon of December 31.

Here’s a quote from the second song: “The year was Old, that day. The patient Year had lived through the reproaches and misuses of its slanderers and faithfully performed its work.” And the fourth: “I see the Spirit of the Chimes among you! I know that our inheritance is held in store for us by Time…I know that we must trust and hope, and neither doubt ourselves, nor doubt the good in one another. I have learnt it form the creature dearest to my heart…. O Spirits, merciful and good, I am grateful!”…the Bells, the old familiar bells, his own dear, constant, steady friends, the Chimes, began to ring the joy-peals for a New Year: so lustily, so merrily, so happily, so gaily, that he leapt upon his feet, and broke the spell that bound him. They WERE ringing! Bless their steady hearts, they WERE ringing! Great Bells as they were; melodious deep mouthed, noble Bells…when had they ever chimed like that before! …So may the New Year be a happy one to you! So may each year be happier than the last.”

Gyre Publications
Copyright ©2008 Frank A. Wallace
Cover photography and design by Nancy Knowles
All rights reserved.

Here is the whole book if you would like to read more and see the gorgeous drawings! [Click on magnifiers if you do not see anything.] The selections for the song-cycle are below.

From Christmas Books, The Chimes, by Charles Dickens, 1843-48.

I.  The year was Old

The year was Old, that day.  The patient Year had lived through the reproaches and misuses of its slanderers and faithfully performed its work. Spring, summer, autumn, winter.  It had laboured through the destined round, and now laid down its weary head to die.  Shut up from hope, high impulse, active happiness, itself, but active messenger of many joys to others, it made appeal in its decline to have its toiling days and patient hours remembered, and to die in peace.

II.  It was a hard frost

It was a hard frost, that day.  The air was bracing, crisp, and clear…The wintry sun, though powerless for warmth, looked brightly down upon the ice it was too weak to melt, and set a radiant glory there.

III.  Good night.  Good bye!

Good night.  Good bye!  Put your hand in mine, and tell me you’ll forget me from this hour, and try to think the end of me was here….  There’ll be a Fire to-night, There’ll be Fires this winter-time, to light the dark nights, East, West, North and South.  When you see the distant sky red, they’ll be blazing.  When you see the distant sky red, think of me no more; or, if you do, remember what a Hell was lighted up inside of me, and think you see its flames reflected in the clouds.  Good night, Good bye!

IV.  Spirit of the Chimes

“I see the Spirit of the Chimes among you! I know that our inheritance is held in store for us by Time.  I know there is a sea of Time to rise one day, before which all who wrong us will be swept away like leaves, I see it, on the flow!  I know that we must trust and hope, and neither doubt ourselves, nor doubt the good in one another.  I have learnt it form the creature dearest to my heart….  O Spirits, merciful and good, I am grateful!” …the Bells, the old familiar bells, his own dear, constant, steady friends, the Chimes, began to ring the joy-peals for a New Year: so lustily, so merrily, so happily, so gaily, that he leapt upon his feet, and broke the spell that bound him. They WERE ringing!  Bless their steady hearts, they WERE ringing!  Great Bells as they were; melodious deep mouthed, noble Bells…when had they ever chimed like that before!  …So may the New Year be a happy one to you! So may each year be happier than the last.